What is Sanatana Dharma?
By Sundaram La Pierre
“Sanatana” means that which is eternal; & “Dharma,” in this context, refers to those natural laws that are in accordance with Ultimate Reality. Whatever is actually true in the universe – whatever teachings are true in any religion – is a part of Sanatana Dharma, thus it has often been translated as the ‘Universal Religion’. Not the expression of any one historical individual, the truths of Sanatana Dharma have been verified time and time again in the lives of the numerous saints, sages and devotees of God who have practiced its teachings down through the ages.
Who would not love Sanatana Dharma once they were exposed to it and understood it? By very definition, Sanatana Dharma represents that which is actually true in all religions. Not only an Indian religion, it is a religion that has been preserved for the world by the Himalayan sages and great masters of India. It is as broad and as vast as the Divine Spirit Itself.
The following nine tenets are offered by Hinduism Today magazine as being representative of most followers of the Hindu religion. (1) There is one, all pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent. (2) The universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution. (3) All souls are evolving toward union with God and will ultimately find Moksha: freedom from the cycle of rebirth and oneness with Spirit. Not a single soul will be eternally deprived of this destiny. (4) The law of karma exists, by which each individual creates his or her own destiny by their thoughts, words and deeds. (5) The soul reincarnates through many births until all karmas have been resolved. (6) Divine beings exist in unseen worlds, and that worship and rituals, as well as personal devotion create a communion with these devas and gods. (7) A spiritually awakened master or Satguru is essential to know the Absolute. Just as a lamp is lit by another lamp, a true Guru lights the flame of God-consciousness in the disciple. Also required are the disciple’s good conduct, purification, self-inquiry and meditation. (8) All life is sacred, to be loved, revered and protected, and so practice ahimsa, or non-injury. (9) No particular religion teaches the only way to salvation above all others. All genuine religious paths are facets of God’s pure love, deserving tolerance and understanding.
In an interview, the saintly Swami Avdheshananda Giri, preeminent spiritual leader and mahant of the Juna Akhara, spoke these words: “Hindus believe in the family system. Hindus are non-aggressive, not attackers. Hindus will never harm anyone. There are four reasons why I say this. The first is our principal of vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means the whole world is one family. For us, the whole world is a big family. Second, par dara matravat, meaning women of others are like our mothers. Hindus are known all over the world to maintain the purity of relationships. Third, Hindus believe in sarve bhavantu sukhina, let all be happy and blissful. We want the whole world to be harmonious and joyous; we want the welfare of all beings. The fourth principal is atmavrata sarvabhuteshu: treat others as they would treat themselves.
“Hindus are believers in one God. This God is present everywhere and in every being – formless but also on Earth. Hindus are flexible and generous. They mingle freely with everyone… I have worked to realize my dreams of a better world with better people. Another dream I have is to convey the spirituality of India to the Western world. I want to let them know that Indian spirituality has the human dharma defined for the welfare of all beings of the world… Only the spirituality of India has the power to overcome anything that mankind will face.”
The great Swami Sivananda declared: “There is only one caste, the caste of humanity. There is only one religion, the religion of love. There is only one commandment, the commandment of truthfulness. There is only one law, the law of cause and effect. There is only one God, the omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient Lord. There is only one language, the language of the heart, or the language of silence.” – from Bliss Divine.
When we read such exalted words our hearts, our minds and our souls leap with the thrill of remembrance. It is the declared purpose of this publication to remind everyone to honor and uphold the great spiritual legacy of Sanatana Dharma as taught not only in scripture but through the lives of the countless saints, sages and devotees who have walked (and are walking) this path of joy for the welfare of all beings. May we put God first in our lives, and by doing so unfailingly discover our own swadharma, that path in life which is unique to each individual soul and by which we may most quickly resolve our karmas, be of service to others, and return to our ever-new joyful home in God.
At the end of Chapter XXXII of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, by Mahendranath Gupta (Master Mahasaya), the following words are from Sri Ramakrishna’s conversation with the author:
“The Hindu Religion alone is the Sanatana Dharma. The various creeds you hear of nowadays have come into existence through the will of God and will disappear again through His will. They will not last forever. Therefore I say, ‘I bow down at the feet of even the modern devotees.’ The Hindu religion has always existed and will always exist.”
Satya Dharma ki Jai!Sundaram La Pierre is the author of the book, Where Souls Dream God: Westerners’ Perceptions of Spiritual India, (Himalayan Heritage, 2009), and publishes Himalayan Heritage Magazine, a bimonthly periodical. www.HimalayanHeritage.org* If you wish to be removed from our mailing list, simply scroll to the bottom of this letter.At Himalayan Heritage we feel that our publications: Himalayan Heritage Magazine, & our book, Where Souls Dream God: Westerners’ Perceptions of Spiritual India, are our most important service. We hope you agree!